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Worlds Worth Stealing, Part 2 (Games on the Brain)

August 26, 2014

Now back to something fun.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about my favorite combination of distractions, worldbuilding and tabletop RPGs. Specifically I’ve been thinking about how to turn the far future Lovecraftian Mythos-inspired spacefaring setting, where the monsters and aliens are named after creatures from Lewis Carroll’s poetry, found in three amazing stories by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear into a game I can run at the table. Not that I will actually have time to do anything with this in the near future, but hey, I can dream.

These three stories, “Mongoose”, “Boojum”, and “The Wreck of The Charles Dexter Ward” take place in a human-populated solar system haunted by inter-dimensional monsters and mysterious aliens. It’s an original blend of space opera and weird horror, ripe with possibilities for a game (and hopefully ripe with possibilities for more stories from these two authors.)

Just what sort of unknowable beasties are we talking about here? Well, creeping in from outside of our reality there’s the vermin-like toves, dangerous raths, including a mome (mother) rath, and the incredibly lethal bandersnatches (the Hounds of Tindalos by another name). Then there are the phase-shifting, razor-tentacled, human bred and trained cheshires that keep these threats in check.

Those who do a lot of stellar traveling might catch a ride on a boojum, a gargantuan, living, sentient ship that actively looks after its crews needs (unless it goes nuts and eats them). Humanity doesn’t seem to have made it out of the Sol system yet, but that may be because of the implacable Mi-Go dominating the Kuiper Belt. And there’s a mention, but not yet an appearance, of the doppelkinder, which as best as I can tell, enter our reality using human reflections in mirrors to harvest human eyes.

Add to this mix cyborg ‘Christian’ cultists, human political officers who are as feared as they ever were in the Soviet Union, nomadic universities, and the occasional mad scientist trying to revive the dead, and I think I can see a gameable setting starting to take form. (Yes, gameable is totally a word. You understood what I meant by it, didn’t you?)

No jabberwockies, jubjub birds, borogoves, or snarks have make an appearance in these stories, so there’s plenty of room for setting growth.

So where do you find these stories?  All three can be found at the Drabblecast, and these special podcasts come with multiple voices, sound effects, music, and the whole shebang. The poor descriptions below are mine, and I have tried not to give too many spoilers.

“Mongoose”, part 1 and part 2.

A yarn about a vermin-hunting cheshire named Mongoose, and her human handler, who protect human space stations and ships from inter-dimensional infestations. Because if the tove infestation gets out of control, they’ll be followed by the raths. And the raths will eventually open the cracks wide enough for the inescapable bandersnatch. (Also published at Clarkesworld if you want the text version.)

“Boojum”, part 1 and part 2.

A story about one of the gargantuan bio-engineered living ships, a boojum, and its crew of predatory pirates. Unfortunately for these pirates, they overreach themselves trying to sell some unusual contraband, and not even their symbiotic ship may be able to save them.

“The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward”, part 1 and part 2.

What could possibly kill one of the nigh-invincible boojums? And what strange secrets can be found on the carcass of the living ship, Charles Dexter Ward? A ship of Arkhamers, space-faring, nomadic scholars, will find out, but may wish they hadn’t. (If you don’t get the reference of Charles Dexter Ward, I suggest listening to the story before you Google it.)

Have you listened to them yet? Why the heck not?

What might I call this setting if I were trying to pitch it to a group of friends for a table top game? Hmmm. Jabberwock 3000 maybe? I’ll have to think on this some more.

Perhaps I could take the ideas from this setting, and graft them onto the transhuman setting of Trey Causey’s forthcoming Strange Stars. Now there’s an idea.

If these stories have you interested, I should point out that’s it’s nearly the end of H.P. Lovecraft Tribute Month over at the Drabblecast. They kicked off this month with Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space”, but I was particular impressed by “To Whatever” by Shaenon Garrity. Modern Mythos stories definitely benefit from a healthy dose of humor.


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